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Roman Roamin

Roman Roamin > Using Livy's tales in an historical narrative

Using Livy's tales in an historical narrative

The story of the Horatii versus the Cuiratii comes from Livy, and was probably drawn from theater. According to Livy, the two sets of fighters were more than just brothers, they were triplets! And one was supposed to be engaged to the sister of the other team? Classic dramatic irony, makes for a wonderful myth, but unlikely to be historically true. Nonetheless, it makes for a fascinating story, and fills my needs nicely.

The words spoken by Mettius Fufetius, the Dictator of Alba Longa, are taken almost verbatim from Livy’s account of the famous battle between the two sets of warriors as brought to life in the chapter: "Three Against Three." I also used the oath to abide by the results of the contest, including the plunging a dagger into the swine, just as Livy described it. I do this to honor the legend, which many fans know by heart.

We do know that Alba Longa was actually destroyed in history around 600 BCE, and that the people were welcomed in Rome and were treated as equals. Many of these Alban families were later revered among the oldest and most respected of patrician stock. Gaius Julius, for example, (who is portrayed in the novel as the Alban King's advisor) is the ancient ancestor of the most famous of all Romans, Gaius Julius Caesar. The Julian family actually were a priestly clan, just as I mention in the novel.

We know that Alba Longa was destroyed -- and yet her people did blend peacefully with Roman society. So perhaps the story about the contest being decided by champions is TRUE, after all. I describe the action in my own words, but the spoken words remain close to the original, for many phrases have become part of Roman tradition, especially: "So perish every Roman woman who mourns for an enemy!"

In a later book, Livy also recounts the tale of how Superbus used guile to obtain possession of the town of Gabii. According to the tale, Sextus pretended to flee from his father and went to Gabii for sanctuary. This strategy draws from an earlier legend in which Zopyrus gains entrance to Babylon by pretending to flee from a mutual threat.

Next, Sextus sends a messenger to his father asking for instructions. Superbus makes no reply to the messenger, but walks up and down his garden, striking off the heads of the tallest poppies. Sextus interprets this to mean he should put to death all the chief men of the town. According to the Roman historian Herodotus, the episode of the poppy heads is borrowed from the advice given to Periander by Thrasybulus. Therefore, we can safely assume that this tale of Livy's is probably nothing more than a compilation of earlier legends.

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